Open Ecosystems

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Defining an API Landscape taxonomy

Written by Mark Boyd
Updated at Wed Oct 18 2023
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Who should read this:

API industry stakeholders, tech investors, tech media

What it’s about:

The API industry has bloomed over the past ten years on two fronts:
  1. The infrastructure and tooling that makes creating and managing APIs has matured and in some areas commodified to the point where there is now a second order of products built on the foundational API tools offered in the market
  2. API-as-a-product companies have become scalable, high revenue-generating businesses with the likes of Twilio and Stripe being built for cross-industry, complex, subject matter-specific functionalities and for common functionalities relevant to specific industry sectors
As a result, it is useful to map the API industry in its entirety and identify all sub-sectors that contribute to the API economy.

Why it’s important:

As the industry has matured, new tooling has emerged. In order to identify where new feature enhancements would be most useful, what investment is likely to produce revenue results, and to understand how digital ecosystems are leveraging APIs, it is important to be able to map the sector landscape in a consistent way that allows metrics and trends to be tracked.

API tool providers support businesses and organisations to move towards platform-based approaches. (At Platformable, we are interested in this because platform businesses expose data and digital services externally and thus create ecosystems, which we see as the types of networks that are needed to build a future in which we can all live in.)

API tool providers offer services, products and tooling to organisations that are building and/or consuming APIs. Tools providers help organisations better manage both their APIs and the partnerships and networks that evolve from the relationships that APIs make possible.

Working with the conference event team at apidays we helped produce the API Landscape: a web-based app that allows you to look at all of the API tools providers out there and better understand their offerings. To create the interactive landscape, apidays provided us with a set of categories and sub-categories to describe the various sub-sectors of the API industry, which we used to cluster tools and providers in a way that makes it easier for you to navigate and identify providers of interest. But this set of categories was created almost 10 years ago, and the sector has matured significantly since then, meaning many of the newer tools providers don't neatly fit into the current landscape taxonomy.

At Platformable, we also use this taxonomy to help us identify emerging trends, to analyse market gaps and opportunities, and to understand what features will be needed to provide future support to end customers when managing their API portfolios.

It has come time to reimagine the API industry taxonomy, and we want your input to help us best map the categories and sub-categories that will describe the API industry now and in the years to come.

Taxonomy model sources

There are relatively few comprehensive models that define the API sector overall in a way that we could use as a guide for our landscape taxonomy. The ones that come to mind are:

  • The existing API Landscape model from apidays:

  • Postman's API Platform Landscape:
  • 2023-postman-api-platform-landscape.png
  • Gartner's Full API Lifecycle Management model:

    Screen Shot 2023-09-02 at 2.02.11 PM.png
  • The API Pillars approach taken in Continuous API Management by Mehdi Medjaoui, Erik Wilde, Ronnie Mitra and Mike Amundsen:

Defining a framework to map the taxonomy

Using these four models, we can think comprehensively about  APIs:

  • APIs are created internally in a business and a range of tools are used to build and manage them
  • APIs are then exposed externally to others, which requires other tools to assist and manage those processes
  • APIs are the consumed by businesses, and more tools are used to enable this.

At Platformable, this is how we see an open ecosystem generating and distributing value from APIs:

Open Ecosystem Value Model flat.png

Now we can think of all of the API Tools and related elements that might support generating and distributing this value:

API Industry 2023.png

Here's how we have defined this new API Taxonomy that represents the full API Landscape, and how it aligns with the four reference models we drew from:

Platformable will soon be working with apidays to update the API Landscape using this new taxonomy. The new landscape web app and full data model will be launched at apidays Global in Paris in December.

But before we do any updates, we are keen to hear your feedback: 

  • Does our taxonomy make sense? 
  • Are there areas we are being too granular (for example, we are dividing up API analytics to refer to strategic metrics such as developer adoption or revenue generated, vs API observability to refer to APIOps-type performant metrics vs API monitoring to refer to API metrics like rate throttling or security assessments: should that all be grouped as API observability and monitoring, for example?) 
  • Are there any elements that have been left out (for example, we are thinking of adding categories for data management and data governance tooling, should they be included and if so, under what category? 
  • What sub-categories should be moved around? 

Please answer our brief survey, or share your thoughts with me directly in a vidchat or via email.

The API industry is forecasted to continue expanding at around a 20% compound annual growth rate, and all industries are moving towards digital models that make use of APIs. We are also seeing an increase in regulations that encourage new industry innovation by mandating the use of APIs. We're excited by the potential that API tools providers can play in helping ensure open ecosystems flourish and enable participation by all sectors of society: multilateral organisations, enterprises, small businesses, research, media, consumers, and non-profits. Having a defined taxonomy that helps us map how tools are being used and where the open ecosystems need to be supported with further resources is essential. We're looking forward to your feedback on our taxonomy and model. Answer our survey today.

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Mark Boyd


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